The NDP’s Bob D’Eith is the new MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission. / Colleen Flanagan Photo

D’Eith edges out Dalton in fight for Maple Ridge-Mission

It was a close race, but the NDP candidate managed to unseat his Liberal opponent

Bob D’Eith went to bed late, exhausted from a night where he narrowly defeated incumbent Liberal MLA Marc Dalton in one of the province’s closest ridings.

A few hours later, he was up and at his current day job as a consultant in the music industry.

Such is the life of a politician, which D’Eith can consider himself if the 120 votes that separate him and Dalton in Tuesday’s provincial election holds after a possible recount and absentee voting is finalized. He’s staying cautiously optimistic about his victory in Maple Ridge-Mission until then.

D’Eith tentatively defeated Dalton, 9,843 votes to 9,723. According to Elections B.C., Dalton could request a recall in the next few days, which would be conducted around May 22, when absentee ballots are also counted.

It was one of the closest races across the province, and Dalton trailed D’Eith by just dozens of votes several times during the night.

While the NDP preferred a firmer result in this riding, D’Eith said he could feel the optimism when he and his staff put the boots to the ground and door-knocked.

“It was really positive out there. You could feel people were ready for a change,” D’Eith said. “It was obviously a great day for the NDP. We picked up a lot of seats and we felt the campaign went really well.”

A busy man who still manages a local band and practises entertainment law, D’Eith always gravitated to politics, even when he was studying law at the University of Victoria. He figured he would get there eventually, and did so in 2015, finishing on the outside looking in, in a spirited three-way race in the federal election.

Also in his corner are his kids – three sons and two stepdaughters. His two daughters both play high-level soccer, while his sons have taken over his love for music. Oldest Sheldon is just finishing up a music degree at Vancouver Community College, while Braden is at BCIT for computers. Cameron is an aspiring hip-hop artist.

“My family were very supportive,” he said. “I’ve always talked about it. It just had to be the right time and the last few years it did just seem right.”

His artistic background has been both varied and largely successful. He was executive director of the Music BC Industry Association for 14 years and created his own independent record label, Adagio Music. He has been nominated for two JUNO Awards and was a founding member of the music group Rymes with Orange.

He couldn’t put his finger on a single issue in this election that may have swayed the riding to either candidate, but believes bridge tolls and the issue of shelters and homelessness were divisive issues.

“People were talking about the tolls, and it certainly had an impact through Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge,” he said. “But I don’t know, it would be nice to see what people decided on.”

If D’Eith becomes MLA, one of the toughest tasks he will face is how he approaches the issues of homelessness, shelters and affordable housing. The NDP’s plan is to build over 114,000 units of a combination of various types of housing, but D’Eith says it’s premature to say what will happen on that front.

He will also have to meet with the MLAs’ citizens’ advisory committee on a new shelter location. The group was named earlier in the year by Dalton and Doug Bing to find a location for a new $15 million homeless shelter. Liberal leader Christy Clark also said last September the two MLAs would eventually have final say on where it will be built, but D’Eith isn’t sure how that will play out when he takes over.

“There’s a lot to deal with on that issue and I’d have to be briefed on what the committee actually did, because we’ve only seen the final report,” he said.

“I can’t speculate on what the government will be and what our relationship will be in that, because it really depends on a lot of things.”

For now, D’Eith will take a wait-and-see approach on whether he will be Maple Ridge-Mission’s first NDP MLA since the riding was created ahead of the 2009 provincial election.